City to shoulder more public benefit costs

“We should ask the private sector to do what it does well, which is housing”: Carl Weisbrod

From left: Steven Spinola and Carl Weisbrod
From left: Steven Spinola and Carl Weisbrod

The city will shoulder a higher share of costs associated with creating public benefits such as schools and parks, in order to encourage more developers to address the affordable housing crisis, chairman of the City Planning Commission Carl Weisbrod said on a panel today.

Under the Bill de Blasio administration, Weisbrod expects to see a reversal of several decades of public policy. Whereas in the past the city required developers to pay for parks, schools and public spaces in exchange for incentives such as upzoning, the city will now take on more of that burden.

“I think we are going to see a more traditional role for what government pays for and what the private sector pays for,” Weisbrod said. “We will see government pay for schools, public investments, open spaces, that in the past few decades we did [lay] on developers.”

“We should ask the private sector to do what it does well, which is housing,” he added. The administration is, however, much to the chagrin of developers, taking away voluntary inclusionary zoning and replacing it with mandatory inclusionary zoning.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Steven Spinola, outgoing president of the Real Estate Board of New York, who was also on the panel, interjected at one point after Weisbrod spoke, saying, “I am still cringing every time you say ‘mandatory affordable.'”

Weisbrod was speaking on a panel at the Massey Knakal Realty Services Multifamily Summit, held at the McGraw-Hill Building at 1221 Sixth Avenue. Other panelists included Vicki Been, Commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development, BFC Partners’ Donald Capoccia, Dunn Development’s Martin Dunn, L&M Development’s CEO Ron Moelis, and Spinola. It was moderated by Joe Lynch, a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody.

Weisbrod leads City Planning, which is one of the key agencies responsible for the mayor’s aggressive affordable housing plan.

Spinola, who is stepping down from his REBNY post next year, said one of the main challenges the city faces in hitting that mark is from communities that want a lot from developers.

“[Communities] want more affordable housing, so that is going to take something away from the project’s profit. [They] want a school. Who is paying for the school?” Spinola said. “The communities don’t recognize that the developer is in this to make a few bucks.”